South Africa coach Mark Boucher eager to see Proteas embracing their new culture and playing smart, aggressive cricket against England in the upcoming three-match T20 and one-day international series, which you can watch live on Sky Sports Cricket

Last Updated: 20/11/20 2:51pm

South Africa coach Mark Boucher is encouraging his players to be smart, rather than 'mavericks'

South Africa coach Mark Boucher is encouraging his players to be smart, rather than ‘mavericks’

Kass Naidoo explores the selection options open to South Africa ahead of two white-ball series following England’s welcome arrival in Cape Town…

England are in South Africa and it has instantly brightened the mood in the country. Administrative drama threatened to derail this tour but sanity prevailed, and the arrival of the 50-over men’s World Champions has us all excited about the on-field action again.

Still, it was the first question Proteas head coach, Mark Boucher, had to field at his virtual arrival press conference on Thursday, and he responded in typical Boucher fashion: “CSA issues are there, and we can’t hide behind it. We are in a position to bring some good news to South African cricket and change some perceptions about the game in our country.”

S Africa vs England

November 27, 2020, 3:30pm

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While England has the benefit of considerable cricket under the belt since resumption after the initial Covid-19 lockdowns, this will be the first time a South African team takes to the field against international opposition since March.

Boucher was open with the media about what has been a challenging few months. Having recovered from Covid-19, he was mindful of the impact of the pandemic on families. His own team set-up has been impacted with a second player testing positive for Covid-19, with two others isolating after being exposed to the first player to test positive.

By all accounts, this has been a soul-searching time for him and his charges, as they have gone about finding their way in a new normal. The coach is eager to see his team start living their new culture and playing smart, aggressive cricket.

Usually, a Proteas men’s team picks itself, with one or two spots up for grabs. The impact of Covid-19 on the team’s preparations and the opportunity to test an expanded squad means there is an “open shot for places”.

Faf du Plessis averages 47.47 after playing 143 ODIs for South Africa

Faf du Plessis averages 47.47 after playing 143 ODIs for South Africa

To add to this competition for places, talk of AB de Villiers playing at next year’s T20 World Cup continues, even though he doesn’t feature in this squad. Boucher is leaving the door open for the superstar player, saying AB is always in the mix when he is playing well. Surely, he should have been in this squad, if they were serious about playing him?

And, if there is an opportunity for AB to come back, no doubt previous Kolpak players will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing in the green and gold again. This could result in a sticky situation, and some seriously unhappy cricketers, who have walked a long journey to get here.

For now, it’s about performances and all eyes will be on this exciting squad of 24 assembled for duty against England.

AB de Villiers' last T20 international against England was at the  SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff, in June 2017

AB de Villiers’ last T20 international against England was at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff, in June 2017

Choosing the top five batters is not an easy task. Janneman Malan could make the opening slot his to give SA that explosive start at the top alongside skipper, Quinton de Kock. My bet is that Faf du Plessis will come into his own this summer. He is playing with great freedom at the moment and looks to be enjoying his game without the burden of captaincy.

It’s anyone’s guess what the makeup of the bowling attack will be, considering the big guns in the squad. Boucher talked up Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada and their IPL performances. The fiery duo aside, watch out for Lungi Ngidi, who has a bounce in his step. Also keep an eye on Lutho Sipamla, who is showing good potential at international level.

On the spinning front, Tabraiz Shamsi has some extra grunt after recent strong performances in the four-day arena. He will be itching to carry that form into the limited overs space.

Expect the Proteas to select players for different conditions, while managing IPL workloads and trying new faces.

Boucher may be keen to take this journey one step at a time without looking too far ahead, but fans desperately want to experience that World Cup-winning feeling, and every move of the Proteas will be watched over the summer and analysed by all who care about South African cricket.

Watch every game of England’s white-ball tour to South Africa live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first T20 international from 3.30pm on Friday, November 27.

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